Just Say No
by Brody Rossiter
Beginning with an instantly gratifying and shocking sequence exhibiting the unfortunate effects of investigative journalist James’ experimentation with controversial drug DMT-19, Banshee Chapter starts off weird, and only gets weirder. Following James’ bizarre disappearance, it’s down to his college buddy and fellow truth seeker, Anne, to hunt for answers and discover her friend’s whereabouts.
The premise of Banshee Chapter stems from an elaborate and conspiracy packed free-fall into the American government’s history of experimentation with psychotropic drugs – specifically the effects upon their human test subjects. Archival footage of an apologetic Bill Clinton press conference interspersed with fictitious scientists’ statements relating to years of clandestine testing immediately establishes an unnerving foundation upon which both true life influences and the terrifyingly unreal interweave
Visually, the film manages to bring a unique edge to the typical trends of lo-fi horror cinematography, fully exploiting editing tricks and aesthetic exposition to skew reality and alarm the audience as much as possible. From unique choices of camera filter to stuttering found footage, the dynamic appearance of the film remains fresh, ensuring the same can also be said for the myriad of scares which slowly build before racing at you head-on. While lower-budget horror flicks often leave much to the viewer’s imagination, Banshee Chapter also delivers with startling visuals that crown the slow-burning build-up with a twisted and definite flourish.
The directorial debut of exciting new director Blair Erickson, the film was largely influenced by H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, From Beyond, and its 1986 film adaptation of the same name. Homages to X-files-esque investigations are also present, yet the arrival of Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) as a whiskey sippin’ Hunter S. Thompson clone, ushers in a horrific dosed-up descent into narrative frothing with devilish experiments and unknown entities which stalk Anne’s hunt for answers.
An elaborate and surprisingly unique horror film which somehow manages to be much more than the rather tired sum of its parts, Banshee Chapter is a visceral and highly entertaining entry into the genre thanks to numerous engaging performances – especially Levine’s desert dwelling cult author – and a barrage of deeply unsettling passages topped off with frightful shocks. It will find you eventually; find it first.